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Their commutes to Austin are two or three hours each way. They go days without seeing their children. But these drivers describe the decision as life-changing. They're happier, less stressed and, for some, finances have been saved.

"I thank god that Ride Austin and Fasten came aboard," said Yerica Garcia, who resorted to driving for the Austin ridesharing services last summer after one of her vehicles was repossessed. "If it was Uber, I would lose my house too."

Garcia fell thousands of dollars behind on her mortgage last year. She blamed Uber for lowering prices and changing its commission split in Houston, which made it difficult to provide for her three children under the age of 10.

Meanwhile, Garcia feared losing her home, so she rolled the dice. One day in June, she left her children with her mother and trekked the nearly three hours to Austin.

She quickly found that the rates charged in Austin, and the portion that the ridesharing service withheld, were far more favorable to her as a driver.

She has since driven mostly for Ride Austin. It does not take a cut of driver's earnings with standard vehicles, instead keeping a $2 booking fee that it charges passengers. But drivers of SUVs and luxury vehicles -- which are paid more per mile and minute -- pay a 20% cut to Ride Austin. In Houston, Uber takes nearly 30% of most rides. Uber drivers in Houston receive 87 cents per mile today, a figure that's dropped in recent years.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

After that first day in Austin, Garcia began a new ritual. She'd leave Houston at the crack of dawn on Thursday, and return home on Sunday. With money so tight, Garcia would park in an Austin Wal-Mart or apartment complex and sleep in her Nissan Pathfinder.

Today, Garcia has nearly caught up on her mortgage payments. She says she makes $1,200 a week in Austin. There's no need to sleep in her car now. She splits an apartment with three other drivers who travel to Austin because of the better pay.
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